Pediatric chemotherapy linked to cognitive issues later in life

Children who received chemotherapy may experience short-term memory issues and decreased cognitive flexibility as young adults, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

For the study, researchers assessed the cognitive abilities of 31 young adults who received chemotherapy as children at an average age of six and a half years. Researchers juxtaposed cancer survivors' test performance against a control group of individuals who had not received chemotherapy as children.

While results indicated no difference between the groups in terms of long-term memory and the ability to concentrate, participants who received chemotherapy struggled more than their control counterparts when performing tests related to short-term memory and quick switching between tasks.

Using samples of brain fluid collected from the survivors during cancer treatment, researchers established a link between high levels of the protein phosphorylated Tau and cognitive performance later in life.

"If we systematically measure these p-Tau levels in the future, we can offer specific help to children with high values," said Iris Elens, study author and psychiatrist in training at University of Leuven in Belgium. "With early coaching aimed at the most relevant functions we can prevent problems that would otherwise manifest 10 to 15 years after the treatment."

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